I saw the first Happy Feet back in 2006, remembered enjoying it and haven’t watched it since. When seeing the second film, I had to stop for a second and try to remember what happened and who the main players that were would be in this film. Aside from Robin William’s loud, singing penguin Ramon and his preacher character Lovelace, I didn’t remember anything so I went into Happy Feet 2 pretty fresh. I may have enjoyed the first, but Happy Feet 2 is beautiful and bland. Despite the beautiful scenery, the film plays like a bad kids Saturday morning cartoon with rote messages about accepting differences. There’s a few smile worthy elements but not enough to keep you or your kids interested.
Penguin Mumble (voiced by Elijah Wood) is living the good life with his wife Gloria (voiced by Pink) and young son Erik (voiced by Ava Acres). Erik, of course, is different from the other penguins lacking flair of dance or song. When Erik runs off with fellow penguin Ramon (voiced by Robin Williams), Mumble goes on a journey to get him back. Once father and son return they discover a melting iceberg has trapped all their friends and family, and it’s only a matter of time before everyone dies.
The visuals are just as stunning and spectacular as the first film. At times you wonder if the backgrounds are real because they don’t appear to be CGI. I didn’t see this in 3D but I doubt you need a third dimension to take in the awesome landscape presented. In terms of characters the only characters I enjoyed were the krill Bill and Will voiced by Matt Damon and Brad Pitt, yes you didn’t read that wrong! Will goes through an existential crisis about being at the bottom of the food chain and rebels with his best friend along for the ride. Sure most of their jokes involve puns and they have a pretty awful gay joke, but their one-liners are charming and at times really witty. A scene where Will discusses his “momentary relief from the existential terrors of existence” had me busting up. Theirs is one of the more unique elements of the movie.
Sadly, there just doesn’t feel like much going on in this movie. The film introduces the characters, has Erik go on an adventure which stops halfway through before Mumble picks him up. They have an adventure that stops halfway through before something else happens that goes on for the entire film. The appearance of the first two adventures feel like elements that were invented to create the ending and were merely introduced to pay off at the end. The film feels like three kids cartoons tied together to make one narrative. It’s even funnier considering it doesn’t feel like Mumble and Erik have been gone that long before returning to utter chaos and devastation. Now, I remember the environmental message becoming a bit much at the end of the first film but here it’s merely a plot device that’s never resolved. It starts with the effects of global warming but ends with a pitiful “Ice Ice Baby/Under Pressure” sing-along and is never resolved. I mean there’s no way to resolve it but here it just ends, hate to tell you kids that the penguins are still probably suffering.
The humor is also all over the place and feels insulting at times. There’s a slew of toilet humor including pee shooting into the air and other things. There’s the aforementioned gay joke with the krill and a horrific rendition of “I’m Bringing Sexy Back” sung by young children. It’s not funny but just…odd. It doesn’t help that the majority of the characters seem to be sleepwalking through their roles. Wood and Williams seem to be around to collect a paycheck with Williams yelling and Wood chastising his son and using the word “different” 100 times. The new characters like Pink’s characters Gloria (replacing Brittany Murphy) have about a dozen lines and no characterization.
This film seems to have ripped the plot from Happy Feet 2, about accepting differences and finding one’s place, but cheapened the characters. The original characters are stereotypes or empty shells and the new characters are just dull. Ava Acres is cute as Erik but the character just gets in trouble and talks about how different he is. The film is a bad mishmash of kid’s cartoons that feels clunky and boring. A rental for fans of the series at most.